Hunger strike in Cuba
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    Legal action underway to allow lighthouse Cubans to stay in U.S.

    Legal action underway to allow lighthouse Cubans to stay in U.S.

    A group of Miami lawyers is prepared go to federal court if 19 Cuban
    migrants who climbed onto a lighthouse seven miles off the U.S. coast
    are repatriated. At issue is whether the lighthouse is considered part
    of U.S. territory, giving the migrants the ability to stay under U.S.
    policy.
    SERGIO N. CÁNDIDO
    scandido@elnuevoherald.com

    Is a lighthouse that stands seven miles from the coast U.S. territory?

    A group of activists and lawyers is ready to take the matter to federal
    court for an answer if immigration authorities do not allow a group of
    19 Cuban rafters to stay in the country. Two others were plucked out of
    the water.

    “The lighthouse is called ‘American’ Shoal. It is on a platform in
    waters under the jurisdiction of the United States, with funding
    provided by the U.S. and, in addition, a historical monument,” said
    Ramón Saúl Sánchez, president of the Democracy Movement organization.
    “Their feet got dry there, in American territory. They should be able to
    stay.”

    Sánchez is working with a group of lawyers to take legal action in
    federal court in coming days if the migrants are repatriated. If the
    case moves forward, it could set a new precedent in U.S. immigration policy.

    It drama began to unfold around 8:30 a.m. Friday, when someone spotted
    the migrants aboard a makeshift boat and called the U.S. Coast Guard.

    After seeing the authorities, the migrants jumped from the boat and swam
    to the American Shoal lighthouse, where they stationed themselves for
    several hours. They finally agreed to turn themselves over to the Coast
    Guard at approximately 5:30 p.m.

    Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Doss said Monday that the rafters are still
    aboard a Coast Guard cutter in Caribbean waters, where they are being
    interviewed by immigration officers to determine their fate.

    Under the immigration policy known as “wet foot/dry foot” Cuban migrants
    who touch U.S. soil are usually allowed to stay in the country and apply
    for permanent residency after one year. Those who are intercepted at sea
    are usually returned to the island.

    It is not clear if the old iron structure located seven miles from
    Sugarloaf Key is considered U.S. territory.

    Sánchez and his lawyers say yes, and that history supports their arguments.

    In January 2006, a group of 15 Cuban migrants who had reached the old
    Seven Mile Bridge were repatriated by immigration officials. The rafters
    were intercepted while they were on a portion of the bridge that was not
    part of the connection to the mainland. The federal government
    understood this to mean that the group never reached U.S. territory and
    the migrants were returned to Cuba.

    Thanks in part to efforts by Sánchez, who filed a lawsuit and a declared
    a hunger strike seeking a reversal to the case, a federal judge ruled
    that the immigration authorities had acted illegally. Part of the group
    of deportees then received permission to stay in the country.

    “Federal Judge Federico Moreno ruled at the time that a bridge, even if
    it is separated from the land, is part of the United States. The
    lighthouse is administered by the United States, it’s part of the
    American territory,” Wilfredo Allen, an attorney in the case 10 years
    ago and part of the team on the current case, told Univision.

    THE LIGHTHOUSE IS ADMINISTERED BY THE UNITED STATES, IT’S PART OF THE
    AMERICAN TERRITORY
    Wilfredo Allen, attorney

    The lighthouse, which is 109 feet tall, was built in 1880 and stand on
    an octagonal platform that is 10 feet deep. In 1990, the structure
    served as the image for a 25-cent stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service.

    A book published in 1977 titled The International Legal Regime of
    Artificial Islands by Nicolas Papadakis, cites the late Attorney General
    of England Charles Russell to determine the sovereignty of lighthouses.

    “If the lighthouse is built on a rock, or on piles fixed into the
    seabed, it becomes part of the territory of the nation that created it,
    and as part of the territory it has all the rights that belong to the
    protection of the territory, neither more nor less,” Russell states.

    Doss said they have never dealt with a case like this and that the Coast
    Guard will take care of the rafters “as best as possible” until
    immigration officials make a determination on their fate.

    Meanwhile, Sánchez said he is willing to declare a hunger strike as he
    did 10 years ago if the Cubans are not allowed to stay.

    “It’s in the arsenal of the possibilities, but I do not want to
    speculate on that because what I want is for this to be resolved,”
    Sánchez said.

    Source: Legal action underway to allow lighthouse Cubans to stay in U.S.
    | In Cuba Today – www.incubatoday.com/news/article79410447.html

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